Stepping up: Alex Muhangi is one of the pioneers of stand up comedy in Uganda, and it is in this industry that he met and eventually became very close friends with fellow comedian Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi. The two however recently fell out and Muhangi shares that and more about the comedy industry with EDGAR R. BATTE.
What inspired the idea of Comedy Store?
I had always wanted to create a platform where every comedian would feature and get paid their worth as opposed to just belonging to a particular group.
How did you come up with the name Comedy Store?
The name was basically a store of not just great jokes but music and entertainment.
How have you been able to make business sense out of comedy?
As long as the audience believes in you and the brand, that is the definition of business. So what you need is consistency and great service.
How do you handle the comedians that come for the store?
My relationship with the comedians is more than just business. We work as friends, and I pay them very well.
What is your take on the comedy landscape in Uganda?
Our industry would have been in a better place, but we have people among us who are crippling the industry with their selfishness.
What are those people doing to cripple the industry?
There is a lot. They try so hard to stop any progress in the comedy industry, especially when they feel they have not been involved. For example, for the past one year until recently, I have run an undisputed comedy brand “Comedy Store”, a platform that allows many comedians to showcase their talent. But some comedians felt I do not deserve this platform and they have always wanted to have a piece of it. As we speak, instead of working with me to develop the industry, they have instead set up shop just next door to to compete with me, which is really sad.
Who are these selfish people?
Nah. It is not necessary to name them.
Your long-time friend Salvado (Patrick Idringi) is one of the people promoting a show next door, how is this going down with you?
I am okay with it but it is just wrong for a friend to do that. It is similar to me promoting or supporting another show slated for the same day he had his Man From Ombokolo. I cannot do that.
You recorded a promo for ‘Man from Ombokolo’ and you were slated to emcee, but you were a no-show.
I was not able to attend because I was hosting a workmate’s wedding reception on the same day.
Have you two talked about this?
Yes, and he said him and the brother are just doing it for the money.
Did you believe him?
It does not matter whether I believe him or not.
What is your wish for comedy in Uganda?
We are headed the right way. I will still fight to have the industry at its best.
Where do you see comedy heading?
Of course I would love to see Ugandan comedians shine on global platforms.
What needs to be done to get more Ugandan comedians crossing borders?
Hard work and by this, I mean learning to write. I have seen many comedians repeat or use material that another comedian wrote a year ago. I think it comedians need tohelp one another and work together for the good of their careers.
What are your thoughts about the content relayed on stage?
Every time I have hosted a Rwandan or Kenyan comedian, they always refer you to another, Eric Omondi will tell you about Chipukeezy or Dr Ophweneke and you really see him asking you to try them next time, Arthur Nkusi always says “please try Babu or Micheal they are extremely good”. But Ugandans, it is all about them. I am sure even when asked about Ugandan comedy they say “I am the only comedian in Uganda”.
Away from comedy, what else is in your world?
I am a farmer. I rear a good number of goats and cows, plus I am a family man.
How do you balance work and family?
I give each enough time.
Your better half (Prim) works on radio. Are you a fan of her show?
I love Galaxy FM. It plays good music, the presenters are hilariously crazy, plus Galaxy FM has supported me from when I was nothing. The fact that my wife works there is an added advantage, I like her voice too, ha ha ha.
Have you ever called in to contribute to her show?
I call all the time. I have been hosted on the radio several times, and yes I contribute.
What are your current local hit songs?
I like many songs but Drum by Lydia Jazmine, John Rambo by Sheebah, Tokendeeza by Geosteady and Terera by Eddy Kenzo top my music charts. They are on power play in my car.
If you were not a comedian, what career would you have chosen?
I would be a music producer, which I went to school for. I still do both though; comedy and music production.
What do you miss most about not being in the limelight?
I miss my privacy.
Do you ever get time to spend with your siblings and parents? When and what things do you do together?
Yes I have all the time #leavemyfamilyoutofthis
What is that one thing that touches you deeply? Is there anything you have done about this particular thing?
Every time I visit my farm. I like to see the young goats jump and play together. It makes me happy. It is such a great feeling. They are young, free and they do not care whether Tojikwatako or Jikwateko, they do not care whether Donald Trump is president or Yaka is finished. They just be there jumping, playing, eating and sleeping. I really like to watch them.